Being an MLA and representing the constituents of Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin is an incredible job! I am delighted that this role encompasses so many different components, and I am honoured that you have placed your faith in me to fulfill these responsibilities.
Perhaps the most high-profile part of the job is participating in the process that brings bills forward in the Chamber to be considered for new legislation. Soon after our new leader was sworn in as Premier, a new session of the Legislature was opened with a speech from the throne by Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani. This speech highlighted our government’s key priorities for the months ahead: making life more affordable for families, attracting jobs and investment to our province, fixing the healthcare system, and standing up for Alberta’s jurisdictional rights. We have been in session for the past few weeks and I’d like to draw your attention to just some of the progress we’ve made.
Bill 1, the Alberta Sovereignty within a United Canada Act was the first bill introduced by Premier Danielle Smith this session. Based on feedback from Albertans after First Reading, government caucus met to discuss the need to propose clarifying amendments. We clarified that any legislative change to existing Alberta statutes that are outlined in a Resolution and introduced and passed by the Legislative Assembly under the Act, must also be introduced and passed separately through the regular Legislative Assembly process (first reading, second reading, committee of the whole, and third reading).
Proposed amendments would also clarify that the harms addressed by the Act are limited to federal initiatives that, in the opinion of the Legislative Assembly, are unconstitutional, affect or interfere with Alberta’s constitutional areas of provincial jurisdiction, or interfere or violate the charter rights of Albertans. I want you to be assured that our legislative process works. When a bill does not capture the will of the people, feedback is heard, respected and acted upon; amendments can be made as part of the process. Bill 1 passed Third Reading and has been proclaimed. This legislation will affirm our jurisdictional and constitutional rights as a province and strengthen the bonds of Confederation by upholding our nation’s most foundational documents – the Constitution and the Charter.
Our government knows that affordability is the primary challenge facing Albertans right now, and that families, businesses, and vulnerable Albertans are counting on us to take decisive action to address the rising cost of living. Our Affordability Action Plan will be backed up with legislation provided in Bill 2, the Inflation Relief Statutes Amendment Act. It’s a multi-billion-dollar inflation-relief package for Albertans, made possible because our budget is balanced and our fiscal house is back in order. This Act will ensure that Albertans – either directly or indirectly – will benefit from the strength of our strong economy.
Bill 3, the Property Rights Statutes Amendment Act has also passed Third Reading. Its intention is to abolish adverse possession, otherwise known as “squatter’s rights” in Alberta. This bill stems from a recommendation in the final report of the MLA Select Special Committee on Real Property Rights. This committee, chaired by MLA R.J. Sigurdson, travelled the province this past summer, consulting extensively with Albertans on property rights issues.
Bill 4, the Alberta Health Care Insurance Amendment Act is designed to remove a section of the Health Care Insurance Act that allows the government to terminate compensation-related agreements. Alberta doctors say this legislation gives them the confidence they need to focus on growing their businesses and delivering the world-class care Albertans deserve. It also allows our government to focus on doctor recruitment and retention in communities across the province. It, too, has passed Third Reading.
Bill 202 is a Private Members’ Bill introduced by MLA Dan Williams that has also passed Third Reading. It’s called the Alberta Personal Income Tax (Charitable and Other Gifts) Amendment Act and its purpose is to make it easier for Albertans to give to charity. For donations of $200 or less, Bill 202 will raise the tax credit from 10 per cent to 60 per cent. If you add the federal rebate of 15 percent, the tax credit for charitable donations will be in line with political donations at 75 per cent. This bill will build a stronger and more resilient charitable sector, and will help address affordability issues for both donors and recipients.
These are just some of the pieces of legislation we’ve been working on over the last few weeks. For a full listing, please go to www.assembly.ab.ca. There is quite a bit of information available about the process of a bill becoming law, about the bills themselves, and about debate in the House. If you haven’t already, take some time to peruse this website.
With session starting later than usual, I have had more time in the Constituency. I’ve had the good fortune to meet with council and administration of the Village of Hay Lakes as well as some of their very engaged community members. I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Agriculture Forum put on by JEDI, an innovative regional partnership between the County of Wetaskiwin and Millet that fosters sustainable agricultural growth for existing and prospective business organizations and farmers. I celebrated Christmas with the County of Wetaskiwin and shared in their Awards Banquet.
I braved the cold to sneak in some shopping at Wetaskiwin Mall and to attend the 30th anniversary of VisionMasters – Wetaskiwin. Wetaskiwin Health Foundation held their 14th Annual Country Christmas Barn Dance; it was great to see a full house at this event! Did you know that the Wetaskiwin Health Foundation has raised over 20 million dollars since their inception, and all that money has gone back into the community. Ferintosh Hi-U Centre hosted a Christmas Dinner and I was delighted to attend; I love evenings of good, old-fashioned, rural Alberta hospitality and fun! The Town of Millet has outdone itself (again) with its Winter Festival; I really enjoyed meeting Santa Grinch!
This year, at the invitation of a dear friend, I took in “An Evening in Bethlehem”, an interactive, live theatre production/tour of the much beloved Christmas Story. It was quite amazing, and I am so appreciative of the enormous amount of work that went into such an incredible event. 900 people attended over two evenings, and a great amount of food bank donations were collected at the free event. This constituency is filled with generous, creative, caring people, and I am so grateful for each one of you!
From my family to yours, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday Season!
— Honourable Rick Wilson is the Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta for Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin